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When Faced With a Problem, What Happens If You Do Nothing?

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Post When Faced With a Problem, What Happens If You Do Nothing?   Sat Aug 13, 2011 12:37 pm

When faced with a problem or an opportunity you need to ask yourself what happens if you decide to do nothing? Will the situation improve or deteriorate?

Many of my readers call my office if they're involved in a negotiation and need help. I'm always happy to help them if I'm there. If I'm away on a speaking trip, I'll always return the call when I get back into town. Over the years, I've learned an interesting thing. If I'm out of town and not able to call them back for a few days, in over half the cases, the problem has gone away by the time I reach them. In over half the cases, the best solution to the problem was to make no decision at all.

There are only two types of problems, people problems and money problems. But within those two categories, there are many different kinds of problems. For example:

You have many choices but you don't know which one to pick.

* When faced with a problem or an opportunity you need to ask yourself what happens if you decide to do nothing? Will the situation improve or deteriorate?

* You don't see any solution to the problem.

* It's a do we or don't we decision. Do we buy the new office building or don't we? Do we hire this person or don't we?

Any time you are faced with a do we or don't we decision you first thought should be, "What happens if we do nothing."

The decision to invade the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas was a do we or don't we decision. A religious sect had barricaded itself into the Mount Carmel religious retreat. When ATF officers approached their compound to determine if they were breaking gun laws, four of them were shot and killed.

Hundreds of law enforcement officers laid siege to the compound. The incident became a national affair and it fell to Attorney General Janet Reno to decide what to do. After a 51-day standoff she gave orders to invade. The defenders promptly set fire to the compound and 76 died in an horrific mass suicide.

Janet Reno should have thought, "What happens if we do nothing?" She explained that she had to act because children were being abused inside the compound. Sorry, Janet, but this was simply untrue. When the FBI sent food supplies in to the rebels they cleverly planted microphones in the milk cartons. They could hear every word spoken, and you can read the transcripts on the Internet. There was no child abuse.

It should have been clear to the authorities that there was no compelling reason to invade. The right solution to the problem would have been to cordon off the area and do nothing. By the time the FBI was faced with the Montana Freemen rebellion three years later they had learned the lesson. They did nothing and 81 days later the rebels surrendered without a shot being fired.

Before you take action determine this: if you do nothing, will the problem get worse, or better? If it isn't going to get worse, give it some time and see if it doesn't go away.
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